Skip to main content

Will assassination plot against Sikh separatist in New York hamper India-US relations?

By Saira Bano* 

The United States government recently stated it had thwarted a plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader in the U.S. and issued a warning to the Indian government. According to media reports, U.S. authorities say they successfully stopped a plot to assassinate Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil. Pannun is a U.S.-Canadian citizen and a prominent figure in the pro-Khalistan movement, which calls for establishing an independent Sikh state in northern India.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson indicated that the administration is treating this issue with the utmost seriousness and noted it has been raised with India “at the senior-most levels.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he hoped India “will take these real concerns seriously.” This recent revelation comes two months after Trudeau said his government had “credible evidence” of an Indian link to the killing of a pro-Khalistan leader in Canada. In June 2023, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was assassinated outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, B.C.

U.S. protest

The alleged killing in Canada and foiled plot in the U.S. give rise to concerns regarding India’s reliability as a trusted strategic partner for Western governments. The mounting authoritarianism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and its belligerent foreign policy raises questions about India’s future trajectory which potentially conflicts with the interests of the U.S. and its allies.
The U.S. reportedly issued a diplomatic protest to India following Modi’s visit to Washington in June. Furthermore, U.S. federal prosecutors have filed a sealed indictment against one suspect in court. The debate now centres around whether to unseal and make this indictment public immediately, or await the completion of Canadian investigations before its disclosure.
Pannun has been organizing a symbolic referendum on an independent Khalistan in San Francisco. India perceives the activities of pro-Khalistan leaders as a threat to its sovereignty.

India’s differing responses

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has not commented on the White House statement. Nevertheless, the White House statement conveyed that their Indian counterparts “expressed surprise and concern” upon the issue being raised with them. Indian officials reiterated that extrajudicial killing is not reflective of Indian government policy.
The contrast in the Indian government’s response to the Canadian and U.S. announcements is intriguing. India vehemently denied Canada’s allegations and dismissed the claims as “absurd.” Furthermore, New Delhi heightened diplomatic tensions by issuing a travel warning to its citizens in Canada, halting visa services and threatening to revoke the immunity of Canadian diplomats in India.
From the perspective of the Indian government, relations with Canada are not deemed strategically crucial. Consequently, India appears willing to weather a temporary strain in relations and can afford to allow them to be derailed for a few years.
However, India’s relations with the U.S. hold immense strategic significance. Given the ongoing border disputes with China and Beijing’s escalating assertiveness, there exists a tangible threat to India’s territorial sovereignty.
Recognizing the power asymmetry with China, India finds it imperative to cultivate a closer strategic partnership with the U.S. Conversely, the U.S. sees India as pivotal to its Indo-Pacific strategy, which is aimed at counterbalancing China’s growing influence. The U.S. has actively supported India’s economic and military growth to foster a power balance in the Asian region.
The great power rivalry between the U.S. and China aligns with India’s national interests. However, India seeks a stable rivalry, cautious of overly hostile relations that could potentially entangle it in the U.S.-China conflict. Simultaneously, if relations were to improve between the U.S. and China, India could risk losing its current strategic significance.

Growing belligerence

The Indian government has consistently asserted that extrajudicial killing is not part of its foreign policy. However, its alleged involvement in Nijjar’s assassination in June, the killing of another Sikh leader in Pakistan in May, and this thwarted plot in the U.S. indicate a concerning pattern of behaviour.
The authoritarian tendencies of the Modi government and its seeming willingness to target people on foreign soil could strain India’s relationship with its allies and partners.
The India-U.S. relationship has been billed as grounded in shared democratic values. This alliance has also been held up as a model contrasting with the authoritarian regime in China. The recent events, however, cast a shadow on this narrative, and could prompt the U.S. to reevaluate the partnership.
Under the authoritarian trajectory of the Modi government, U.S.-India relations appear to be shifting towards an alignment with mutual interests rather than shared values.
---
*Assistant Professor in Political Science, Thompson Rivers University. Source: The Conversation

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.